Hiring an Attorney? Ask These 5 Questions First.


Hiring an attorney is an investment. As with any other investment, it pays to be a well-informed buyer. Knowing what to ask when consulting with an attorney for the first time will help you know what to expect and determine whether this or that attorney is the person you want to have representing you in court.

With these things in mind, here are five questions you’ll want to ask any attorney you’re considering:

1. Are you licensed to practice in my state?

While this might sound like something that could go unasked, it’s good to make sure. It ought to be understood that an attorney would let you know if he or she isn’t licensed, but the truth is that it’s not always the case. Scams happen. Or if you live near a state line, you could easily find yourself talking to an attorney who isn’t licensed on your side of the border.

Don’t take chances. Ask.

2. What is your experience handling my type of case?

This will help you gauge whether the attorney is the one you’re after. Maybe you’re going to want a specialist in a particular type of case. Maybe you’ve got financial worries and would like to find a lawyer with a little less experience who charges less.

Whatever you’re looking for, you should make sure to ask. Get the lawyer with the level of experience that best lines up with your needs and financial situation.

3. What do you charge for your services?

This is another question that we’d like to think we don’t have to ask. But there are a few reasons to ask this question. Most obviously, you want to know what costs to expect.

Do your research so you can find out what the market rates in your area are. Listen closely to the attorney’s response when you ask the question. If they don’t have an estimate available, or if the estimate sounds too good to be true, look elsewhere.

4. What will be your approach if we agree you’ll handle my case?

You’ll want to ask this question for two reasons: because you want to know what to expect, and because you want to make sure the attorney knows his stuff.

It’s obvious enough why you’d want to know what to expect in the case. But this question can also be a good tool for weeding out inexperienced attorneys. An experienced attorney should have no problem answering this question. They should be able to confidently give you an outline of what to expect and how to proceed with the case. If they aren’t able to do this, consider taking your business somewhere else.

5. What is your honest assessment of my case’s chance of success?

This is a good question to ask, because you generally won’t want to hire an attorney who doesn’t believe your case can succeed. And if you talk to several attorneys who all believe your case can’t win, you may be able to save yourself the expense of losing a lawsuit.

This question can also help weed out attorneys who don’t have the experience you’re looking for, because they won’t be able to evaluate things credibly.

Whether you’re looking for an attorney for one case or a series of cases, these five questions will give you the foundation to learn whether this person is someone you want to have in your corner. Be an informed customer and you’ll potentially be able to create a professional relationship that lasts for years into the future. But most importantly: make sure you can get along with your attorney on a human level. An attorney you get along with will be much better able to represent you than an attorney who rubs you the wrong way.

From the Author: Hiring an Attorney